Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal on Sunday announced that all state-run hospitals and some private hospitals will be reserved for residents of the Capital in a bid to tackle the escalating coronavirus situation. However, all central hospitals in the city and private facilities that perform specialised surgeries will continue to cater to patients from all parts of the country.
Currently, 13 hospitals are private, while five are run by the Delhi government, and only four are under the Centre.
With over 27,000 cases and more than 700 deaths, Delhi is the third worst-hit state in the country after Maharashtra and Tamil Nadu. It has been reporting over a thousand cases daily for the past few days.
Kejriwal said the decision was based on the findings made by a five-member expert panel constituted by the Delhi government, which warned that the Capital will have over one lakh cases of the coronavirus by the end of June and would require 15,000 additional hospital beds by the end of the month. The committee added that if the government opens up hospitals for non-residents, all beds will be occupied within three days.
“If we open Delhi hospitals for everyone, where will the residents go?” the chief minister asked at a press briefing. “Delhi’s infrastructure is needed to tackle the coronavirus crisis at the moment. Therefore we have decided that some private hospitals in the city will be reserved only for citizens.”
The decision comes a day after the Delhi government claimed that there was no shortage of beds for coronavirus patients in Delhi and that nearly 5,000 were available. But relatives of several patients have told Scroll.in that they were unable to get beds in hospitals across the national Capital as authorities cited a shortage. They also said that the information on the “Delhi Corona” app – meant to display the availability of beds at both private and government hospitals in the city – does not tally with position on the ground.
At the press briefing on Sunday, Kejriwal also announced the reopening of Delhi’s borders for inter-state movement from Monday. With rising coronavirus cases in the city, the chief minister had last week sealed its borders, restricting the inter-state movement of non-Delhi residents while permitting only the operation of essential services. He had expressed apprehension that city hospitals may get swamped by people from other states in the absence of these restrictions.
While malls and restaurants will resume activity from Monday as per the Centre’s guidelines, all hotels and banquet halls will continue to remain shut. “These hotels and banquet halls might have to be turned into hospitals in the future,” Kejriwal added.
The Delhi government will also withdraw the 70% extra tax on liquor, dubbed as “special corona fees” from June 10. The cess was initially imposed on May 4 to regulate the massive crowds outside liquor stores, as locals defied physical distancing guidelines during the lockdown to control the spread of the coronavirus.